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Coaching Balance in the Classroom

 | Feb 11, 2015
via photopin (license)

Being a teacher means embracing constant change. Yet all too often, teachers are told when, how, and why to change. In this monthly column, Mrs. Mimi takes on creating change for herself by rethinking old practices and redefining teaching on her own terms. 

Ah, coaching.  The word “coaching” seems synonymous with the word “training” which is a word I have always disliked.  Training implies we are simply another employee being told a new way to do our jobs, as if our jobs are all the same or we have nothing to add to the conversation.  Like we are seals learning a new trick.  As if we don't already have enough balls to balance, now we have yet another new idea, strategy, or practice.

I get it.

This is, perhaps, why so many teachers are wary of the idea of coaches in their schools.  I have seen many resist or, in some cases, totally avoid their literacy coach.  Why?  Because it's scary to really open up and allow someone else to constructively critique your practice?  Because being truly reflective also means being open to change?

Might I suggest a meeting of the minds?  Teachers, be brave and model being engaged and enthusiastic for your students.  Remind yourself what it feels like to be challenged or learn something new.  Be excited to share your learning and growth with others.  Coaches, respect and honor the knowledge teachers already possess.  Build or expand upon that knowledge slowly, but with confidence and excitement.  Always add value.  Never do harm.

Some of my most thrilling moments as a teacher came from working closely with a coach as equals.  We investigated new ways to push read-aloud instruction.  We researched and read articles about student engagement, theories around questioning and hot new titles.  We wrote lessons collaboratively, taught them in front of one another and debriefed on successes and not-so-successes.  Meeting with her never felt like "another thing on my to-do list" because it was the opposite of an arduous task.  It was thrilling work we saw have an immediate impact on students. 

Together we explored new ideas and ways of working with students.  Together we grew and showed our students what it meant to be vulnerable, brave, and engaged all at the same time; we showed them how to be learners.

Is there anything else you can ask for as a teacher?

Mrs. Mimi, a.k.a. Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of  “Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom” and “It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade”, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.


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